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Manuela Reguzzoni (LEND Lingua e Nuova Didattica)

Investigating IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP)


The topic of this presentation is a lexical investigation carried out into the Standard Marine Communication Phrases (SMCP), the ’block’ language compiled by IMO (International Maritime Organization) to standardize the language used in ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore and shipboard communication and to ‘assist in the greater safety of navigation’. Seafarers ‘should use it as often as possible and adhere as closely as possible to its wording’.

In the Introduction to the Phrases it is stated that that the SMCP ‘builds on a basic knowledge of the English language’ and was ‘drafted … to reduce grammatical, lexical and idiomatic varieties to a tolerable minimum, using standardized structures’. it is also claimed that the SMCP presents ‘further simplified communicative features’, e.g. frequently omitting, the function words the, a/an, is/are ‘ and avoids the use of synonyms and contracted forms.

The SMCP is, therefore, supposed to be a simple ‘set’ language created to simplify communication at sea. And yet, there are serious problems in its implementation. If the claims made by IMO are objective, why is this ‘restricted language’ not simple at all to teach, learn and use?’

The purpose of my research was to answer this question, find out whether IMO claims are really consistent with evidence compiled objectively and identify the ‘right’ features and patterns to focus on in order to facilitate the learning/acquisition of the SMPC.

The talk will cover the key aspects of the investigation. After providing a brief overview of the SMPC (its purpose, characteristics and structure), it will focus on the motives and objectives of the research, as outlined above, and describe the problems and difficulties encountered in preparing the corpus and in analysing it. Finally, the results obtained and the tentative conclusions reached will be illustrated with the support of the tables and of the word frequency lists produced.

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